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Local collaboration preventing cyber attacks for nonprofits

Project Xander is a collaboration between UTSA students and cyber security professionals.
Project Xander is a collaboration between UTSA students and cyber security professionals.
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Cyber security has become another way of protecting our important assets.

"Whether you have an identity theft issue or ya know, they do ransomware- that can bring down a small business and also a not for profit," says Gabriela Cadena, the CEO of Southside First Economic Development Council. Southside First helps small businesses on the Southside of San Antonio offer numerous resources to excel.

The organization recently posted on Facebook about the help they received protecting themselves against cyber attacks. The help came from Project Xander, a collaboration project from UTSA students and expert cyber security professionals.

"If I sell something and they get access to all my customer lists, that means they could take away all my customers and I would have to begin again," Cadena says hinting at the importance of safeguarding any digital information a business might have.

Southside First has used Project Xander for two semesters and have already implemented several methods to protecting their business. Cadena says they installed new door locks, they have a ring camera, as well as consistently update their software to protect the confidential information they have.

"That could be as easy as put locks on all your doors, so it's not just securing your computer, it's a total package."

Bobby Blount with MITRE, oversees Project Xander and says this is the model for what can be done nationwide to protect all entities. He says San Antonio is on it's way to becoming "Cyber City."

"A lot of people think that cyberattacks go after the big companies or they're going after the bank and the big money; but what they don't realize is cyberattacks occur to every single individual," says Blount, who reiterates that cyberattacks truly affect everyone and even the economy.

Blount says Project Xander is tailored to work with nonprofits and identifying their vulnerabilities to help them strengthen their cyber systems.

He says many companies can defend cyber attacks by simply creating strong passwords and implementing a two-factor authentication system.

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But he says protecting from ransomware and other attacks can happen internally by creating consistent policies within the company, "you have things like hey, when it comes to passwords, here's our policy on how it's done. Make sure they're constantly getting security type training."

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